If you are a Philadelphian looking for legal resources or assistance related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there are many websites with helpful information and guidance. We’ll highlight just some of those websites here. Many legal aid organizations have staff members who are working remotely, so check with each agency to see how to get help.
Civil Legal Resources
For civil legal information, a great place to start is Community Legal Services’ (CLS) Coronavirus Update page. This page gathers up-to-date information on the various rights of Philadelphians dealing with the pandemic, such as using sick leave, SNAP, the temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures, and coverage for coronavirus testing. It also has specific information affecting renters, homeowners, workers, parents, immigrants, and seniors, people with disabilities, and people who need public benefits - including people who have experienced a loss or reduction of income due to the coronavirus. CLS staff are working remotely and encourage you to call them at 215-981-3700 to get help for all cases they handle.
For more information on tenant rights or changes to housing or utility programs, check the PhillyTenant.org website or leave a message with the Philly Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500.
Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) provides important updates on its website regarding family law cases (such as custody and Protection From Abuse) during court closures as well as unemployment compensation. In fact, PLA now has a free Unemployment Compensation (UC) Application Service to help people file for an unemployment claim, especially if you don’t have access to the internet or a home computer. The hotline number for the UC service is 215-999-6910. See the UC webpage for the hours when you can call and speak to a live volunteer. To apply for help for PLA’s other services, call the appropriate number during their telephone intake hours or fill out an on-line intake application, as its staff is working remotely.
The Coronavirus Bulletin Board, compiled by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, includes updates to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Federal benefits and services on topics like unemployment, courts, SEPTA, federal income tax, Social Security benefits, and the CARES Act.
SeniorLAW Center’s home page offers phone numbers by county for contacting its staff - who are working remotely - as well as information on Medicare and Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing, how to avoid coronavirus-related scams, a CDC video on “What Older Adults Need to Know” about COVID-19, and more.
HIAS-PA provides links to resources in Spanish and other various languages on its What You Need to Know About COVID-19 webpage. This page also includes updates on immigration processing, transportation in Philadelphia, scam alerts and more. HIAS-PA is open for business and working remotely whenever possible.
For safety planning and legal resources - such as Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders - for people experiencing domestic violence, see Women Against Abuse’s page on COVID-19 Resources in Philadelphia page or call the 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-866-SAFE-014 (1-866-723-3014).
Criminal Legal Resources
If you have a question about a criminal case in which you were represented by a public defender or about a loved one who is in custody during the pandemic, the Defender Association of Philadelphia has created a COVID-19 Defender Request Form that you can use to ask your question. The Defender Association also has a COVID-19 Question & Answer page.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office provides information on the status of court operations in the city, such as Protection From Abuse services, Preliminary Arraignments, Bail Acceptance, and various types of hearings.
If you need general (non-legal) resources, the City of Philadelphia provides updates and information about COVID-19 at phila.gov/covid-19. Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Learning Center also has a great online COVID-19 Resources Spreadsheet that lists resources for food, housing, medical help, mental health services, hotlines, spiritual support, and more during the coronavirus crisis. It also includes a youtube video on how to use the spreadsheet.